FOR more than a decade anxious residents have campaigned against controversial proposals for a gas storage facility under the Fylde coast countryside.
Time and time again frustrated locals and councillors have gathered in dusty meeting halls to deliver the same unwavering message to first Canatxx and then Halite – the company which replaced the American operation.
It is simple and straightforward – ‘Go Away’!
Now, three hard-fought campaigns – and a police probe into the alleged sabotage of a brine well head – later and the latest planning battle is about to be fought over the salt caverns of Over Wyre.
A six-month examination of Halite’s plans by the Government’s Planning Inspectorate started this month.
Previous campaigns have seen up to 10,000 letters against the scheme but residents now have just one week to channel their objections through the Protect Wyre campaign group.
Ian Mulroy, of Protect Wyre, told The Gazette: “Unless residents have pre-registered to speak before the planning inspectorate the only way they can have their say is through us.
“The public’s mood will make a huge difference. It was a major concern in it being turned down last time, the planning inspector listened to our fears.
“We need a real show of support, we are receiving letters in their thousands now but our target is 20,000 so please stand up and be counted.”
Anti-gas storage campaigners successfully fought three previous applications on the basis of safety, including fears of potential explosions, the unsuitability of the area’s geology and the effects on wildlife.
And this week The Gazette revealed United Utilities has demanded assurances the project will not trigger gas leaks in a major underground sewage tunnel which could cause explosions in the heart of Blackpool.
Howard Phillips, vice chairman of Protect Wyre, said: “This is the last chance to stop Halite, the last chance for residents to have a voice and I cannot stress the importance which will be placed on thousands of concerns – please don’t be apathetic.”
The group has the support of Wyre and Preston North MP Ben Wallace who is strongly urging residents to make their objections known.
He said; “This is the fourth time Halite or Canatxx has submitted plans to store gas at the Preesall site and I would urge residents to submit their objections one last time. It does seem this company in one form or another has been trying to wear down the local community with one application after another.
“One of my main fears is, because this application has been hanging over the area for so long some residents who may have objected in the past may not come forward again this time, so please if you are concerned about this application make your feelings known.”
Following rejections of the Canatxx plans, its successor company Halite lodged a slimmed-down version with the Independent Planning Commission – now referred to as the National infrastructure of the Planning Inspectorate.
The 19 caverns would be used for the storage of up to 900 million cubic metres of natural gas, including 600 million cubic metres of working gas – significantly lower amounts than Canatxx plans submitted between 2005 and 2009.
Nick Taylor, communications director at Halite Energy said: “Understanding and responding to the concerns and opinions of the local community in relation to our project has been very important to Halite. Last year we undertook an extensive consultation exercise in accordance with the Planning Act 2008.
“During this consultation the local community, alongside a wide range of statutory consultees, were invited to find out more about our proposals and share their opinions with us.
“In total Halite received 125 responses from the local community, with a further seven from landowners and 59 from statutory bodies, copies of which are all included in our consultation report which is an integral part of our application.
“This feedback has helped shape the application that is now being considered by the Planning Inspectorate.”
Residents wishing to object to the proposals can send any correspondence to the Protect Wyre Group at firstname.lastname@example.org by Wednesday, May 16.
Alternatively visit the website on to www.pwgroup.org.uk/ to fill in a form.
A final decision on the plan is expected to be made by the Secretary of State next April.